#WhyLib - My Story

This morning's conversation on Twitter started as a response to a tweet from Mr. John Schu the night before:

and then Andy mentioned coming up with a hashtag and Jennifer was on it!

and just like that, #whylib was born!

We'd like to invite librarians everywhere to tell your story.  

How/why did you become a librarian?  What path or winding road did you travel before you arrived in the library world?  Blog about it and post with the hashtag #whylib on Twitter, Facebook, or wherever you connect!  I can't wait to learn more about all my librarian friends in my PLN.  

April is the perfect month to share our stories because it's School Library Month!  

My Story:

I'm only in my fifth year as a school librarian, so it obviously wasn't my first career choice.  Although I have always loved libraries and have memories of getting my first library card when I could finally write my name, I never once thought about being a librarian.  When people ask me about why I became a librarian, I always wish I had some cool story about my high school librarian, or my middle school librarian, or my elementary school librarian...but truthfully, I don't remember any of them.  

Being a librarian was also never mentioned to me as a career choice in high school.  I thought I wanted to either be a teacher or a nurse.  During undergrad, I first wanted to be a nurse but one semester of college biology changed my mind about that one!  I decided on special education with a specific interest in deaf education.  After 2 years at Milligan College, I got married and transferred to Purdue University.  I continued with special education as my major with an emphasis in Mild Disabilities.  I took a couple of semesters of sign language but never became fluent.  I graduated in 1995 with my BA in Special Education. I was a special education teacher for five years (1 year at a middle school and 4 years at a K-6 elementary -- 2 of those years were in Indiana and the other 3 were in North Carolina).  While working at the elementary level, I returned to school to pursue my master's degree in elementary education.  I finished my course work in June 2001 for my Advanced Master's in Elementary Education.

And then...I became a mother in July 2001!

I transferred to a local high school to be a special education teacher.  I knew that the block schedule (3 classes and an hour and a half prep daily) plus the on-campus daycare would be a perfect fit for me as a new mom.  I stayed out on maternity leave until October.  I made it 2 weeks before letting my principal know that I would finish the semester, but would be staying home with my daughter beginning in January for the new semester.  Leaving had nothing to do with the level of students but had everything to do with not being with my new baby.

When I began staying home with my daughter, I continued a part time job of giving homework assistance at our Parent Resource Center once a week both in person and on the phone.  That connection enabled me to still be a part of the school system and led to my next job of working part-time there at the Parent Resource Center and eventually 30 hours a week running a new Parent Resource Center just a few blocks from my home.  My daughter was now 3 so the hours and the 3 1/2 days a week schedule were ideal.  The resource center was a unique place filled with toys, books, and learning games for parents and students to check out.  Funded by Title I funds, we were open during the day for parents and younger children to visit to check out materials, come and play, attend story times, etc.  After school, we had a tutoring time for school age students to come and receive help from certified teachers.  It was at the Parent Resource Center that I realized how cool it was to work in such a unique "library".  I referred to it as my dream job!  I truly loved the variety of tasks, the connections with the parents and children, and all the cool books/resources.

And then, we moved back to Indiana in August of 2005.  I didn't pursue a teaching job because I was expecting our son to be born in November.  I was able to stay home with him and my daughter that school year and through the summer.  In September of 2006, I decided I might want to work part time.  A job opening was posted at a public library nearby.  I applied and was hired to be a part time Reference Librarian.  I enjoyed working at the library:  helping patrons with computers, ordering movies & audiobooks, and all the other library tasks.  The only part I didn't enjoy?  Evening and weekend hours and working in the summer!  I had always worked in an educational setting, so these things were foreign to me.  I continued working at the public library and even applied to graduate school (again) to begin coursework in Library Science.  I decided that I could handle one course at a time without being overwhelmed and I could slowly work towards my MLS.  

In 2008, I decided to interview for a part time teaching job just to see what might happen.  (After a summer of having to go to work while the family stayed home, I really missed education hours!)  I was hired!  The job quickly turned into a full time teaching position (something I wasn't quite ready to do, but I decided to go for it.)  I spent that year as a special education teacher at the middle/high school.  I was also still taking classes in Library Science online at IUPUI.  Towards the end of the school year, the school librarian announced her retirement.  This took me by surprise as I had expected her to continue working for several more years.  I interviewed for the job, made the final round of interviewees, and was hired in June 2009 to be the School Librarian.  I was hired with the agreement that I would apply for emergency licensure for the school year, but would need to have my SLMS certification completed by the end of that school year.  Needless to say, one course at a time wasn't going to cut it to finish up the 27 graduate hours needed to add the certification to my license.  It was a whirlwind of a school year as I doubled up on courses and even did my 180 hours of internship at the public library where I had worked before while being a full time School Librarian.  

The year was a tough one, but I loved every minute in the school library and knew I had finally found my niche.  I wondered over and over again why I had never thought about being a school librarian!  I completed my 27 hours before the next school year began and officially received my endorsement from the state of Indiana to be a SLMS.  I then decided not to finish my Master's in Library Science, but to take a bit of a break and focus on my new job.  After a year of rest, I returned to school to complete my last 3 classes and my MLS.  I'm proud of my MLS because it's my first non-education degree!

The past 5 years have been immensely rewarding for me and I know that my career choice is the perfect one for me.  It was a long winding path to get here, but the choices have made me a better Teacher-Librarian.  My special education background and experience as an inclusion teacher make me a wonderful collaborator and give me the insight in adapting lessons with teachers by adding technology and other hands-on approaches.  My elementary degree has helped me with curriculum knowledge and in supervising the elementary library.  

I've said it before but maybe not here on my blog:  Being a teacher-librarian is the very best job ever!  I get to talk books, teach technology, work with a variety of ages of students, help staff members, collaborate and teach lessons, and work in a library surrounded by computers and books!  Seriously, how awesome is that?!  
So, there's my story.  It's probably way more than you've ever really wanted to know, but that's how I became a teacher-librarian!  Thanks for reading every (boring) detail!

I can't wait to hear YOUR story!


  1. Hi! I loved reading this post. I have taught fourth grade for the past twelve years, and I am about to start a masters program for library science. I am planning to take it slow...one course at a time...all online. Very exciting and scary at the same time. Thanks for posting.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Sherry! Clearly, you have always been a teacher at heart.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story! I love the #whylib idea and will write my "why" tonight!

  4. love-love #whylib! I wrote my story this afternoon, and I love reading everyone else's journey to the profession. (now, to reconsider joining twitter...)


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